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Vodacom launches fully integrated campaign to leverage rugby sponsorship

Vodacom has embarked on an ambitious and far-reaching fully integrated marketing campaign to leverage its sponsorship investment in South African rugby.
Vodacom launches fully integrated campaign to leverage rugby sponsorship
Vodacom launches fully integrated campaign to leverage rugby sponsorship
Vodacom launches fully integrated campaign to leverage rugby sponsorship
Intended to create a lasting emotional bond with the country's rugby fan, the campaign has been developed by traditional full-service agency and Vodacom's marketing communication partner for over 15 years, Draftfcb Johannesburg, and was shot by boutique commercials production company, Picture Tree, with director Alan Irvin.

The ‘big idea' at the centre of every piece of communication making up this bold and innovative marketing attack by Vodacom on the highly-competitive cellular services market is the man wearing the number 23 on his back. He's an integral part of the team, knows all its players and their strengths and weaknesses intimately but, he's not the coach or the manager or even a player, he's a fan, the fan Vodacom wants to embrace and influence at as many touch points as possible.

A critical driver of the interactive element of the campaign is the website, This content-rich environment includes details on every team and every player in all the rugby properties Vodacom sponsors from the Vodacom Super 14, the Vodacom Cup and the Vodacom Tri Nations. Depending on the fan's particular affiliation or preferences, the site will intuitively customise its appearance whenever that fan logs in.

A pared down but just as exciting version of the website - a mobi site - has been developed. Both will make photographs taken of fans enjoying matches around the country available for download, emailing or MMS.

Above-the-line elements launching this during the next few weeks to support the Player 23 digital drive include print, radio, stings and squeeze backs, and a 60 second television commercial featuring the Afrikaans singing sensation, Robbie Wessels, and several dynamite lookers dancing to a jingle the agency reckons will go platinum once released by Wessels.

Like the controversial ‘Leeuloop' execution which drew criticism from some quarters in 2006 but landed up being named as the country's most liked ad by the developed market in Millward Brown Impact's Liking and Noting Tables for that year, this ad is certain to grab the fans' attention and - the agency hopes - will knock the Mexican Wave into the middle of next year as they imitate Wessels and his entourage at every game they go to watch.

Given Draftfcb's success rate at ensuring its clients' brands and their personalities become part of South Africa's popular culture - think ‘Yebo Gogo', ‘Eish', ‘Sirriusly' and ‘Yo Yo Yo', for example - this optimism is well placed.

Vodacom's Managing Executive: Marketing, Enzo Scarcella, said that the challenge put to the Draftfcb team was to maintain the breadth of Vodacom's exposure through its extensive rugby sponsorship investments but to deepen the experience and tangible value proposition for the rugby supporter and greater audience.

“We wanted a campaign that would allow us to own the emotional connection that South African rugby supporters have with the game,” he said. “We wanted them to know that Vodacom is core to the experience of the game, that it not only connects people with people, but connects people to rugby.”

Draftfcb Johannesburg Executive Creative Director, Grant Jacobsen, explained how this was achieved. “There are always 22 players on a rugby team - typically eight forwards, seven backs and seven impact, or bench, players. Together, they form the Match 22. With this campaign, Vodacom introduces a new position to South African rugby teams. From now on, there will be a 23rd player on each team: Jan, Player 23.

“Jan is the ultimate Player 23. He is the guy who lives for the game, who eats sleeps and dreams the game, the supporter who has worked hard and who has earned the number 23 on his back. Whether we like to admit it or not, there is a bit of Jan in everyone who truly loves the game. Jan symbolises that part of us, the part which is not ashamed to shout at the top of our lungs: ‘Prooooovince' or ‘Nou die Blou' or ‘Bokke'. ‘Jan' is that part of us that totally loses its cool when Habana crosses the tryline, or when Schalkie flattens McCaw. Jan is the spirit of the truly dedicated South African rugby supporters.

“Because of Jan's importance to the game, our local rugby stars revere him. After all, without Jan, there would be no game. So, Draftfcb has captured a few of Jan's celebrity moments and shows Jan being admired by players like Schalk Burger, Jongi Nokwe, Beast Mtawarira, Bakkies Botha and more. It would be safe to say that these guys idolize Jan because he is the supporter who gives it all for the team he or she loves.

“It is the ultimate honour, to finally be included as a true member of the team, an essential player without which the team simply could not function. And the ultimate believer in Jan is Vodacom, the greatest supporter of Player 23.”

Scarcella concluded: “I know that Player 23 is a great campaign, and goes to the very heart of our marketing requirement for rugby. I'm certain that consumer take up will be impressive and that we all soon acknowledge Jan as our hero too.”

Player 23 went live on Friday February 13, and will be dominating all major media channels for the upcoming season.

Click here to view the ad. [5MB]

Nahana Communications Group
Nahana Communications Group is a collective of leading specialist agencies that provide solutions across the marketing ecosystem, engaging with clients early, intelligently and collaboratively, to tackle the business problem, not just the creative task.
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You only have to look at the Ad of the week comments to know that there is a big divide of opinions.-
I am not a fan of this advertising. I see that the agency is now trying to justify it, probably as a result of the amount of adverse comment. Frankly my attitude is whatever. But at least there is a connection with Rugby, unlike any of the rest of the Vodacom advertising. It is so schizophrenic, that it is hard to comprehend what Vodacom is doing strategically.
Posted on 24 Feb 2009 15:54
The chosen 1
first cut down the clutter, then.......-
before they embark on intergrated campaign, they need to realise that there's no need for them to sponsor three team in a competition that they are local sponsor. to me Vodacom Bulls playing Vodacom Cheetahs at Vodacom Park on week 8 of the Vodacom Super14 sounds silly
Posted on 24 Feb 2009 16:23
Chris Ndaba
What are Vodacom thinking????-
Having just seen the Player 23 ad I have to ask ...What are Vodacom thinking???? This ad would have been relevant 20 years ago. It certainly is not aspirational and I dont believe it typifies your average Rugby supporter. An opportunity to make the rugby brand more 'sexy' ....they do the opposite and make it embarrassing. I think its stupid ...but as usual Vodacom make money either way so there is no way of measuring its impact so........who cares?
Posted on 24 Feb 2009 18:05
Let's do the time warp.-
The ad is so terrible. Do we still live in the Transvaal? I'm a white english South African and I don't feel this speaks to me at all?
Posted on 24 Feb 2009 22:01
not a fan-
You look at the way Nike or Adidas do rugby and it feels sexy and aspirational, this is just plain boring and dumb. The brand is not sexy at all.
Posted on 24 Feb 2009 22:08
Wanna bet?-
It may not be cool within the arty-farty community but my money's on another hit as far as the average rugby fan is concerned. Vodacom gets the soul of the South African people - As usual, I think they're probably spot on with this campaign.
Posted on 26 Feb 2009 08:11
Karabo Motlaung
Who's heart and Soul?-
May I ask Jake (the previous comment) one question???? The soul of which South African People???............... Rugby has the priviledge of having the ability to attract us blacks as well. SARFU are trying their hardest to go into the townships and I believe they are succeeding in their quest to popularise this sport, however, what Vodacom have gone and done now is make a complete Uturn with this pathetic stereotypical advert. I have a lot of white friends who this ad certinly does not appeal to. So I am not sure who'd 'heart and soul' you are talking about. My opinion is this ad stinks, their objective should be to appeal to ALL south African Rugby lovers...this ad is regressive. Almost as bad as the Meerkat.
Posted on 28 Feb 2009 13:26
Eh... but Vodacom can waste money neh?-
Eish its nice having big budgets neh??? Wonder if they did any research before approving this ad?
Posted on 28 Feb 2009 13:29
what heart and soul?-
Yea Jake who's heart and soul? White Afrikaaners? Yea, I don't think that is a large portion of our country, do you?
Posted on 2 Mar 2009 21:51
I don't think there is a divide. It's pretty obvious. This ad doesn't speak to South Africans as a whole. And judging by the comments below, everyone seems to agree on that.
Posted on 2 Mar 2009 21:53
The whole "i'm black so you need to speak to me specifically" is gettiing boring dudes. The Vodacom soccer ad was about black people doing black things in a black environment. It made no attempt to attract white people, yet no one batted an eyelid. In my opinion, this was the right way to go as SA soccer has a very black culture. SA rugby has, and will probably have for a long time coming, a very afrikaans culture. And what is wrong with that? Can black people not buy into that culture? are they too good? When i go to a soccer game, i would want to have a vuvuzela and makarappa even though i'm Afrikaans. Get off your high horse and stop pulling the race card. Evolve allready!! The ad is good. Not great, but good enough and will do well.
Posted on 5 Mar 2009 09:25
Actually most guys who complained are white and english... so, yea, it's not that's it's a black vs white thing... it's embarrassing and dated... and for a very small minority on national television... from a national network... Soccer on the other hand is watched by millions of the majority of the population... do your math.
Posted on 5 Mar 2009 22:34
double UHM-
mr YAWN me thinks you've either read different comments or just have issues. there's been no reference to the ad NOT being black - to Ryan's point - most if not all complainants are from white and English speaking folk not blacks. so, YOU may need to get over your own black/white issues; the rest of us just think the ad is dated. peace
Posted on 6 Mar 2009 10:48

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